If you have 30 minutes to kill, the annual Al Smith foundation dinner from two weeks ago is very entertaining. For the uninitiated, the dinner is essentially a stand-up comedy event for whatever candidates and public figures are asked to speak. And for the first time in their series of appearances on the same stage, McCain schools Obama.

Granted, they are both just reading jokes written for them by someone else, but McCain's comic timing and material are superior. Obama looks uncomfortable for some reason and commits the cardinal comedy sin of stopping to elicit a response from flat jokes. Just move on, man.

A for McCain, B- for Obama.

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  • I agree about McCain's timing–the man's done a lot of TV comedy, and it shows–but I thought Obama's material was better, if subtler. (Loved the Superman riff.) But then, maybe I was primed to dismiss anything McCain said as mean-spirited and flailing. Can't blame me for that, can you? What's impressive to me about Obama is that he clearly has not much of a sense of humor, but unlike, say, Kerry or Dukakis, he's been able to work around the fact successfully. Kind of the obverse of Gore, who by all accounts is incredibly funny and laid-back in person, but who managed to suppress all traces of his likeability on the campaign trail. Alas.

  • Why did John McCain wait until the last minute to remind us that he's got a likable personality? If *this* John McCain had been running all along, I'm sure the race would be a lot closer than it is – although I still think he would have lost in the end. I don't understand the impulse of campaign managers to suppress a candidate's sense of humor – it killed Al Gore and it is among the many things killing John McCain.

    Along these lines, here's an interesting article about satirist Al Franken's run for Norm Coleman's Senate seat. Not surprisingly, Franken's background as a comedy writer was perceived to kill his chances of even winning the Democratic primary in Minnesota and the Democratic leadership was hoping he would lose.

    If one of the major questions we ask ourselves when electing a president is: would I like to have a beer with this person, why don't the campaigns allow for a bit of humor to come through?

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